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Mineral stains, Rosedale Cliffs – marks caused by chalybeate waters
Chalybeate spring below Cascada de los Colores, La Palma

Chalybeate (/kəˈlɪbit/)[1] waters, also known as ferruginous waters, are mineral spring waters containing salts of iron.


The word chalybeate is derived from the Latin word for steel, chalybs, which follows from the Greek word χάλυψ khálups. Khálups is the singular form of Khálubes or Chalybes, who were a people living on Mount Ida in north Asia Minor and who were expert in iron working.

Ferruginous (/fəˈrɪnəs/) comes from the Latin word ferrūgineus 'of a rusty colour', from ferrūgō 'iron rust', from ferrum 'iron'.[2]


1860 advertisement

Early in the 17th century, chalybeate water was said to have health-giving properties and many people once promoted its qualities. Dudley North, 3rd Baron North, discovered the chalybeate spring at Tunbridge Wells in 1606. His eldest son's physician said the waters contained "vitriol" and the waters of Tunbridge Wells could cure:

the colic, the melancholy, and the vapours; it made the lean fat, the fat lean; it killed flat worms in the belly, loosened the clammy humours of the body, and dried the over-moist brain.

He also apparently said, in verse:

These waters youth in age renew
Strength to the weak and sickly add
Give the pale cheek a rosy hue
And cheerful spirits to the sad.

In 1689, a spring of ferruginous water rich in gas and tasting pleasantly was discovered by Count Lelio Piovene of Vicenza. Local residents called the water from this spring "Saint Anthony's miraculous water" believing it had therapeutic properties.[citation needed] This spring, known today as the Recoaro Spa, is located on the outskirts of Vicenza, in northeastern Italy.

John Radcliffe (1652–1714) discusses the benefits of various mineral waters in the chapter entitled "Of Chalybeat Waters" in his book Dr. Radcliffe's practical dispensatory : containing a complete body of prescriptions, fitted for all diseases, internal and external, digested under proper heads.[3]

Anthony Relhan (c. 1715–1776), promoted the drinking of mineral waters and particularly water from the chalybeate spring in St Anne's Well Gardens, Hove and published A Short History of Brighthelmstone; with Remarks on its Air, an Analysis of its Waters, Particularly of an uncommon Mineral one, long discovered, though but lately used in 1761.[4] This led to a substantial increase in public interest in drinking mineral water. The town of Enfield, New Hampshire, even changed its name temporarily to Relhan because of the profound public interest in this form of therapy.[5][failed verification]

Princess Victoria, later Queen Victoria, drank the waters every day during her stay in Tunbridge Wells in 1834. She and her mother, the Princess Victoria, Duchess of Kent, would pay a visit to the spring and then stroll along the Pantiles. The water contains a significant level of dissolved mineral salts, with iron and manganese contributing to its characteristic flavour.

The Spire Southampton Private Hospital in Chalybeate Close, Southampton, UK was formerly known as The Chalybeate Hospital until 2007.

Content of the chalybeate waters from Tunbridge Wells[edit]

The Chalybeate Spring at Tunbridge Wells

An analysis in 1967 showed it to contain (parts per million):

Notable chalybeate springs[edit]

Chalybeate springs are found in:

This rather ornate spring well is in the village of Quarndon. A plaque inside the well bears the following inscription: "17th century chalybeate spring well. Once famous spa noted for medicinal waters containing iron. Visited by Daniel Defoe in 1727."




  • Spa situated in a valley in the Ardennes mountain chain, some 35 km (22 mi) southeast of Liège, and 45 km (28 mi) southwest of Aachen whose name is known back to Roman times, when the location was called Aquae Spadanae.
  • Malmedy









United Kingdom[edit]




United States[edit]

Places named for chalybeate springs[edit]

Several places throughout the world have taken their name from similar springs, including:


  1. ^ "Definition of chalybeate". The Free Dictionary. Retrieved 2014-10-23.
  2. ^ "Definition of ferruginous". The Free Dictionary. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  3. ^ Dr. Radcliffe's practical dispensatory : containing a complete body of prescriptions, fitted for all diseases, internal and external, digested under proper heads, Rivington, London 4th Ed. by Edward Strother 1721 Digital edition by the University and State Library Düsseldorf.
  4. ^ Relhan, Anthony (1761). A Short History of Brighthelmston: With Remarks on Its Air, and an Analysis of its waters. Brighton: The Philanthropic Society.
  5. ^ The Papers on The History of the Town of Enfield and New Hampshire in the Dartmouth College Library, collected by Nellie Pierce, 1988
  6. ^ "Recoaro Spa Fonti di Recoaro".
  7. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Alpujarras, The" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 755.
  8. ^ Malden, H. E., ed. (1912). "Parishes: Bermondsey". A History of the County of Surrey. Vol. 4. Archibald Constable. pp. 17–24.
  9. ^ Accessed 08/02/2024
  10. ^ Baker, T. F. T.; Bolton, Diane K; Croot, Patricia E. C. (1989). "Kilburn, Edgware Road and Cricklewood". In Elrington, C. R. (ed.). Hampstead, Paddington. A History of the County of Middlesex. Vol. 9. Retrieved 2007-11-10.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bromley" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 634.
  13. ^ Lysons, Daniel (1796). "Bromley". Counties of Herts, Essex & Kent. The Environs of London. Vol. 4. pp. 307–23. Retrieved 2013-12-23.
  14. ^ "Chalybeate Springs". Weekly Gazette. October 30, 1880. p. 5.


External links[edit]